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Customer service from the ramp to the cabin and beyond

“There’s only one cabin in an Embraer 145, so I tell my customers no matter where they are seated, they are in first class on my flight,” shares Charlotte-based Flight Attendant Leonard Martin. After years of loading bags and training new ramp agents in Charlotte to keeping Piedmont passengers safe and comfortable in the sky, Leonard knows the importance of providing good customer service and how essential roles on the ground and in the air affect the overall customer travel experience.

Leonard reflects that his time as a ramp agent taught him a lot which helps him be successful in his role as flight attendant. “I’ve been outside working on the ramp, so I understand what they are going through when there is a bad weather while I work inside an aircraft. I have a compassion for ramp agents that most flight attendants would not have because they haven’t done the job. We are one team here at Piedmont and have to work together to get our flights out on time.”

Leonard traveled on airplanes as an unaccompanied minor for years to visit family in New Jersey and North Carolina. He loved flying and recalls always looking forward to the next trip. “I had always dreamed of working for an airline but went to barber school and became a barber like my father and grandfather,” reflects Leonard. (He is proud to share he can successfully cut hair with both hands.)

After being diagnosed with a medical condition, Leonard was forced to stop cutting hair regularly and went back to school where he obtained his Associate degree in Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). He worked as an EMT until regularly dealing with death took its toll on him. He decided it was the right time to pursue his dream of working in aviation.

After briefly working as an airplane fueler at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, he joined American Airlines as a ramp agent. Five years later, a conversation with a flight attendant who previously worked on the ramp sparked his interest in becoming a member of the cabin crew.

“The flight attendant shared that he loved his job and being able to sit in the jump seat if a flight was oversold was a bonus,” shares Leonard. Leonard joined another wholly-owned carrier for American Airlines as a flight attendant where he worked for two years before resigning to take care of his ill mother. He resumed working as a paramedic and delivered Amazon packages during the COVID pandemic. When airlines began hiring again, he applied to be a ramp agent at Piedmont.

“I read up on Piedmont and liked what I saw,” shares Leonard. “I saw that they embrace different cultures and celebrated Pride Month and Black History Month, for example, which was meaningful to me. I felt like they supported everyone.”

In 2022, Leonard joined Piedmont as a ramp agent in Charlotte and after three months, was asked to join the ramp training department. “I conveyed to the new hires the importance of providing good service even if we aren’t customer-facing,” recalls Leonard. “I told them to envision they were handling a bag for someone they love and to take care of it as such.” As a trainer, Leonard focused heavily on safety and shared the story of a former ramp agent who died while working on the ramp. “I didn’t know him personally but it’s critical to share the importance of being safe and leaving work the same way you came. Sharing his story might save a life.”

One day, Leonard met Charlotte Inflight Manager Pam Johns and while in conversation, Leonard shared that he used to be a flight attendant. “Pam asked if I liked being a flight attendant and I told her that I miss it every day. She gave me her card and it reignited something in me. I couldn’t wait to go home and tell my wife.”

Leonard became a Piedmont flight attendant in January 2023. “I’m not referred to by my number here, I have a name and people remember it which means a lot.” When there is a delay, he appreciates management coming to the gate to see how he is doing and says the open-door policy really is an open-door policy.

Leonard recently received a commendation letter from an airline engineer who was a passenger on a flight that Leonard was working. Before pushback, Leonard noticed that although the main cabin door was closed, light was coming through around the door. After Leonard opened and closed the door again, the passenger offered assistance to no avail. Leonard notified the captain, and the plane only took a brief delay while a new aircraft was brought to the gate. The passenger commended Leonard for being observant and making safety a top priority for the passengers.

He knows many team members in Piedmont Ground Handling and always encourages them to grow in their career. Leonard says he is always being asked by agents about becoming a flight attendant. He shares with them that he is the face of the company as a member of the crew, must always be on time and be self-motivated. “I don’t want anyone to regret not taking a chance and trying something new. You may love it like I love it.”

Leonard continues his mission to help others by volunteering his barber services to nursing home residents and at funeral homes. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus organization and volunteers as an usher at church.

“When passengers board my plane, I want them to feel welcomed and valued.”

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